Belfast Telegraph

Over 900 A&E patients kept waiting at least 12 hours in Christmas rush


By Rebecca Black and Victoria Leonard

More than 30 elective operations had to be cancelled as Northern Ireland's hospitals battled through high numbers of patients during Christmas week.

A chaotic holiday period saw a 14% increase in the number of patients treated at hospital emergency departments compared to the same period two years ago.

In total, 15,626 patients were treated in emergency departments here between December 24 and January 1.

The surge resulted in waiting times with some 928 patients waiting more than 12 hours for admission, transfer or discharge.

Northern Ireland's five health trusts revealed that between December 22 and 28, there were some 31 elective inpatient and day case cancellations.

Elective operations are surgeries scheduled in advance - in other words they do not involve a medical emergency.

In a statement the trusts pointed out that 16 of these have already been rebooked.

"As part of their planning for winter, all trusts have scheduled elective activity in line with expected unscheduled care pressures to minimise as far as possible the need to postpone any elective operations," the trusts said. "Trusts will review this on an ongoing basis and there may be times when it is unavoidable to postpone elective operations due to the level of unscheduled care pressures."

Alliance health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw expressed concern at the figure and the potential knock-on impact the cancellations will have had on the rest of the health system.

"We are talking about 31 people potentially in pain and now facing their elective operations being put back," she said.

"There is a human cost in terms of how long the remaining procedures that have not yet been rescheduled could be put back for.

"There will also have potentially have been a ripple effect caused by this if patients then presented to GPs or Emergency Departments. It will have reverberated across the health service."

It comes as new figures show 212 patients were kept waiting at the A&E department of Antrim Area Hospital for more than 12 hours over the festive period -the highest of any ED in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the emergency department at the Royal Victoria Hospital treated the highest number of patients during the nine-day Christmas rush (2,270), an average of 252 people per day.

A breakdown of the figures shows that a third of the patients kept waiting more than 12 hours were in the Northern Trust (314), with 212 patients enduring long waits at Antrim Area Hospital's ED and 102 at the Causeway Hospital's ED.

This was followed by the South Eastern Trust, with 206 people kept waiting for over 12 hours at the Ulster Hospital's ED alone.

A&Es in the Belfast Trust kept a total of 170 patients waiting for over 12 hours - 100 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, and 70 at the Mater.

The Southern Trust saw 161 patients endure long A&E waits, with 125 at Craigavon Area Hospital and 36 at Daisy Hill.

The Western Trust had the lowest number of patients waiting at A&E departments for over 12 hours this Christmas (77), with 56 patients at Altnagelvin and 21 at the South West Acute Hospital.

Belfast Telegraph

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